Given so much of my social life revolves around coffee, it is hard not to nitpick at some of the related rituals. Like that of paying: when going for coffee as a group, it is usually the case that one member of the group will pay for everybody. And not only because the café won’t split bills.
One person paying for everybody else will, obviously, create debts. It is therefore interesting to note the different attitudes that different people hold towards debt. Some will repay it quickly in cash; others will await their turn to repay in the currency of coffee; and others are rather casual about it all. As a member of the second camp, I find the accounting challenge is often bigger than one would think. Given the composition of the coffee pact varies, paying one’s debt is not a simple matter of taking turns. On one hand I may owe a person several cuppas, while on the other there may be multiple people owing me several rounds each while I do my best to repay an old debt.
My insistence on debt repayment in coffee currency while aspiring for optimal fairness brings along some sort of a reputation. A reputation that made me wonder: why am I so bothered by this matter? Because clearly I am more bothered than others.
Contemplating my personal answer brought me back to my childhood days. Back then I hardly ever had much money on me, probably the direct result of my parents not having much of it either. My friends didn’t seem as affected, and as a result I would often owe them money for rather lengthy durations. [At this point I will mention that I am talking about children here. What passes for a lot of money or a lengthy duration to a child is many parsecs away from what adults refer to using the same terminology.] I would repay my friends, sure, but I think it is safe to assume that over time some debts were forgotten. Hence my contemporary behaviour: I’m pedantic about my current coffee debts because I feel I have wronged my friends in the past over similar matters.
Now, all of the above discussion related to petty amounts of money. Consider, if you will, what people who do not have money for the really important things in life – food, shelter – have to go through. Imagine what it can do to their relationships. Clearly, life can be far from easy.